Several weeks ago I worked at a school on their health day, and one of the events was a presentation about queer sexualities and inclusion.
The thing that blew my mind was that many kids were pulled out of that specific presentation.
But whatever. Fine. They’ll probably just learn from their friends anyway.
Then today, I taught a grade nine English class. They were doing research projects about famous people who have been known to courageously take a stand for something important — like Rosa Parks or Ghandi.
One of the students asked me if she could look up something on her phone. I asked why.
It turned out that she wanted to do Macklemore for his involvement as a gay rights activist, and while she was telling me this I noticed the YouTube page she was on showed that the video had been restricted.
They had been looking for interviews.
But since it was on the topic of “the gays” apparently it’s “inappropriate content,” as the student air-quoted to me.
So I let her use her phone.
But for real — why in the hell is a discussion about gay rights “inappropriate”?!
I mean, aside from the fact that gay people (including men) are sexualized beyond belief.
Because parents have the right to pull their kids out of anything that they believe goes against their beliefs.
But I don’t see any permission forms going home about social class, or English class, or even science class — and these issues are discussed in ALL of those classes.
Yes, queer issues are unavoidable, my friends.
Because… they’re everywhere!!!
But seriously, it’s so NOT insane to talk about queer issues that any kid who gets pulled out of sex ed or “inclusive class” will learn and hear about it anyway.
It’s really only sheltering kids to pull them out, so that when they get into the real world, they will be shell-shocked.
“But teachers have to make sure all students and parents are respected for their beliefs!”
My classroom is a safe place where kids can be themselves and not fear discrimination based on their beliefs, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.
My classroom is a safe place where kids who are confused can ask questions and learn. About anything.
My classroom is a place where we talk about our conflicting beliefs.
And if they don’t feel safe, I’m bloody well going to say something about it.
And isn’t it my goal as a teacher to help students be critical?
The point of school is half to just teach kids to use their brains and think for themselves.
But if I advertise that every time a student says something bad about gay people or says something sexist, I question them and make them think about WHY they believe what they believe, I could get in shit.
Because I’m supposed to respect their beliefs and not go against their beliefs by asking them to think about them.
So… thinking critically is only allowed when it’s convenient.
And that is completely NOT what critical thinking is about.
Criticism and critical thinking is never convenient. That’s the entire point!
And I’ll be honest — I won’t get into religion with students. I know everyone has different beliefs, and I respect that.
But I cannot sit here and accept that treating human beings as human beings is not a general expectation.
You just treat people like people, it’s as simple as that.
Not too long ago, people of colour were treated like vermin, completely undeserving of any right white people have.
Not too long ago, women didn’t have half the rights they have achieved today.
Today, queer people are somehow still a hundred years back in the fight for equality. It’s still “inappropriate” to talk about them.
The education system needs to step up.
If parents want their kid not to learn the things they learn, fine.
But it’s not right that schools endorse it by allowing permission forms for issues that don’t need permission to exist.
It’s like saying “It’s okay that your religion says you can’t respect other people. Just sign here.”
No. I can’t support a system that does that.
We need to educate understanding and respect.
If families don’t like the LGBTQ+ community, we can’t force them to change their minds any more than we can convince a sexist anonymous Twitter user to actually research feminism.
If they don’t want to be open-minded, they won’t be.
But we can show those families that the education system doesn’t condone it.
No more permission forms.
Then it’s on them.
Do you have any frustrations with the education system? Let me know in a comment below — I’d love to hear about them!
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